Eagle to be released

Eagle to be released

Eagles are a common sight on the central Kenai Peninsula, but those wishing for a closer encounter with this majestic bird will have an opportunity on July 23, when a rescued bald eagle will be returned to the wild at 2 p.m. at Soldotna Creek Park.

Amy Kilshaw is the rescue coordinator of Anchorage’s Bird Treatment and Learning Center (Bird TLC), the non-profit that rescued the eagle in February from a Dumpster in Unalaska, rehabilitated it, and will release it during Progress Days festivities. She said it isn’t uncommon for eagles scavenging for rats to be trapped in Dumpsters, and that this young eagle had been rescued with relatively minor injuries.

“He was examined by our vet, and he had wing abrasions and really worn-down talons from probably trying to fight to get out of the Dumpster,” Kilshaw said.

“… He only had really minor abrasions, and he just had to grow back his talons a bit. We put protective bandages on his wings and gave him lots of fluids. We only had him a few weeks at our clinic, then we transferred him to our flight center. That’s our much larger facility we have on (Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson Army/Air Force base). We transfer our eagles there for building up their strength and flight ability again.”

Kilshaw said the eagle made a quick recovery, but because of its youth, her group decided to wait until summer before releasing it to ensure the bird would find an abundant food supply.

Although the Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates the state has a population of about 30,000 bald eagles — dwarfing the approximately 19,500 eagles found in the Lower 48 by a 2007 U.S Fish and Wildlife Service survey — Kilshaw said Bird TLC’s eagle releases get Alaskans excited about a familiar animal.

“People get used to seeing them, but seeing them up close sort of re-ignites an interest,” Kilshaw said. “You get a sense of how big and impressive they really are.

This weekend’s release will include a brief talk about the eagle’s history and Bird TLC’s avian rehabilitation mission. Afterward, two to four volunteers will be chosen from the audience to open the release box — and quickly duck as the eagle flies out.

The eagle release has been a popular Progress Days event for the past several years, according to the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Events Coordinator Andy Rash.

There was none last year, however, because Rash said Bird TLC hadn’t had an eagle to release.

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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